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Children - The Real Victims of the Benefit Cap

17/04/2013 14:07 BST | Updated 16/06/2013 10:12 BST

With the launch of the Benefit Cap this week in four London boroughs - Croydon, Bromley, Enfield and Haringey - the government is setting the stage for its summer roll-out of the new measure across the country.

Although the cap - which limits weekly benefit payments to £500 for most out of work families - will affect a relatively small proportion of families, since most out-of-work families receive nothing close to that amount, it has huge implications for the 40,000 families that the government estimates will be affected.

The aim of the benefit cap, according to the government, is to promote fairness between working and non-working adults by targeting workless adults. But the reality is that it is children who will be paying the price.

Children are seven times* more likely than adults to lose out. The Children's Society estimates that 140,000 children, compared to 60,000 adults, will be hit by this change as their parents have less to spend on food, clothing and rent.

Families will lose an average of £93 a week -- money that is vital for being able to put food on the table, buy children the shoes they need for school and heating the home. All too often this money is the difference between families being able to keep their heads above water or be dragged down by debt.

But the effects go beyond this. Families, especially in London where the cap has been launched, may have their lives disrupted as they struggle to afford their homes. Although we do not yet know what the full consequences will be at this stage, some may be forced to move from their local communities to find a place to live. This will result in children having to leave their schools and friends, and breaking up vital support networks. The cap will also put added pressure on public services in the communities where they are forced to relocate.

The government must review the full impact of this latest measure on children and families before it is rolled out across the country.

It is important to support the government's efforts to make work pay. But it is not right to achieve this by putting more children on the breadline.

*Based on the comparative populations of children and adults -- 1.04% of children in the country and 0.14% adults.